The Name On Your Wrist

Somewhere in the country were a hundred people with ‘Corin’ written on their wrist. Those hundred people were desperately searching for any Corin that might have their carpinomen too. One of those hundred people will be searching for me.

And it was my prerogative to make damn sure that I was difficult to find.

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1. The Reign of Tom III

It’s the first thing they teach you when you start school, before they teach you to wipe and flush after you use the loo and before they teach you how to answer the register.  But they don’t need to; your parents tell you when you’re first learning how to say your name, it’s drummed into you whilst you’re taking your first stumbling steps, it’s your lullaby when you can’t sit up yourself, it’s sung over you whilst you’re still a foetus. By the time you start school the lessons are redundant, it’s fully integrated into your psyche: from the moment it first appears, you don’t tell anyone the name upon your wrist.

*

Over the years, I've come to accept that human beings are incredible.

When humans are hot, their skin produces sweat which then evaporates off the skin to cool them down, then that affects your pee. Salt, too. It all balances out.  All these mechanisms balancing each other out. The body is an intricate web of systems all designed to keep a couple of chemical reactions still working and all these biological science nonsense is encased in something that you can hug. Humans have eyebrows to stop sweat dripping into their eyes. Everything has a purpose. Every human body is a miracle. I like bodies. I like thinking about the fact that, beyond the superficial surface of my skin, there's haemoglobin carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide; and the fact that's possible due to ligand substitution, which all boils down to a matter of attraction and particles. It makes you think, to know that whilst you're a person with a conscience and a mind that you're also just a delicate machine with the adequate mechanisms to cope with quite a few changes and if the changes is too big then you might die, or get sun burnt.

I don't, however, like people.

People are unpredictable and predictable at the same time: it seems, really, that whenever you want someone to surprise you they remain themselves, and those who were actually okay screw themselves over some way or another.  People make stupid decisions on a regular basis but, worse, are stupid reasons for those decisions - because people are broken then forced together again in ways that they were probably never intended to be.

It would be better, I always thought, if people existed purely on a physical level rather than on the more complicated emotional, spiritual levels that come along with it.

In short, Tom Asquith needed to go.

As a boyfriend, he was largely passable: he liked routines and he liked the appearance of things. So, I would be taken to dinner and paraded down the corridors in a way that was almost demeaning and almost flattering, depending on what sort of mood I was in. He asked me how I was and he genuinely seemed to like me, perhaps not as much as he liked the concept of having a girlfriend and the vague prospect of self-gratification - but that didn't change the fact that the entire thing was based on a lie. Well, more than one lie actually, I was a completely different person with Tom as I had been with Tomas previously (and Thomas before that), and given it had never been directly stated but more assumed, I supposed it was closer to a notion; a metaphysical lie which I found almost more insulting. As if he didn't have to waste his words on me, as if I was stupid enough to believe blindly.

My name wasn't written on Tom Asquith's wrist.  The trouble is, there's quite a lack of Corins, and when people think they're in a relationship with their soul mate they act differently - as if it's something precious, some sacred idea of an idea that must be upheld with honour. I've always thought that's the reason for the statistics they shove down your throats in those magazines - that soul mate relationships have a less than one percentage chance of failure, compared to the much higher statistic for other relationships. The idea of obligation, really. If my name appeared on the raised, slightly red skin on his wrist then he would have paid more attention to me in our earlier years of school, or he might have put a little more dedication and effort into an amazing gift for my birthday - imagining, no doubt, telling our future children about the first gift he ever brought me. Really, the perfume had been okay, but it was hardly much of a story.

With soul mates, it's all about the story. And so Tom Asquith had provided me the perfect get out clause - the arse.

I'd skipped school to read a book in bed (staring at the screen on my Tabloid had been more than enough effort spent for a Monday, I thought) and as predictably as ever, Tom had turned up on my driveway in his antique car declaring that he'd missed me and asking if I'd wanted to get away before Jacinta turned me in and the shit hit the fan mother-wise. Affirmative, basically, and after being brought a crappy dinner in a shop where Tom got discount thanks to one of his mates, he'd parked up in the car park facing the beach to ‘talk'.  Either way, it wasn't much of an estimate as to where he thought the whole evening was headed, as much as a prophecy. If anything that made it more fun.

I like letting people down. Particularly Tom, who had enough respect of me to do his best not to look too disappointed when I pushed his hands away or pulled away when he tried to kiss me, but lacked the emotional complexity to mask his emotions sufficiently. His half irritated, half desperate expression was actually my favourite of his collection - something about the corners of his lips seemed to be horribly affected by gravity and it took genuine effort to wrench his lips into a smile (he had quite a few expressions that I thought I genuinely would miss, but I was sure soon enough another Thomas would materialise to tend the wounds of my broken heart).

With Tom kissing me from the driving seat, it would be very easy to decide to forget it for another week - wait for the following Monday (Tom wasn't particularly original, recently I was beginning to feel like my whole life was on repeat; mostly why it was time for him to sod off and leave me alone) and reactive the plan all over again. There were enough books to download to keep the whole routine going for at least another month, but I didn't want to exhaust my supply all in one go and, really, it was for the best.

If I let this continue, there'd be another jilted male wondering around school referring to me as she who puts out and frankly, I could live without Jacinta ratting me out to Mum about that - it would be easy enough to play the whole thing off as having my heart broken by multiple Thomas's, but acting took effort and dedication.

"Hey," I muttered, grabbing hold of Tom's wrist and threading my fingers through his hands, "we should go back soon."

Tom, with his face inches from mine, didn't look particularly convinced by this line of argument; reached forwards and kissed me again,  pinning my hands against the window behind me. Tom's car was one of those archaic vehicles where gearsticks were still added as a sentimental, nostalgic feature that did nothing functional but was supposed to make the car feel vintage. It suited Tom, with his ridiculous love of appearance and lack of appreciation of the practical. He liked the fact that the world thought we were soulmates, even if he knew he weren't, he thought it made him interesting. And Tom Asquith was anything but interesting.

Still, from the angle of things and the fact that he was distracted by moving over to my side of the car without injuring himself on the fake-gearstick; it was perfectly simple to twist the clasp on his wrist guard. Social etiquette didn't stretch to potential soulmates in the privacy of their own car and given that we were now at the age when the search was supposed to begin, it was a perfectly valid and almost fair move. All the better for my reputation at school in the harsh light of morning, not that a lack of social etiquette had ever stopped me before, but this was preferable.

The history books said that, traditionally, on their wedding night soulmates should take off their wrist guards for the first time. I don't believe a large proportion of what's printed in my history books, mostly over exaggerated crap, but there's still a lot of superstition about that - that you shouldn't sleep with someone unless you've seen the name on their wrist.

I've never been great at following rules. But, currently, tradition was very much on my side.

Tom kissed the spot of skin just under my ear and whispered something that sounded a little like ‘I love you' at the exact moment that I let the wrist guard drop, turned the palm of his hand over and read the name printed there.

Teana.

Now that was interesting. The raised, red skin on Tom Asquith's wrist was the name of one of the less popular girls in school, who was largely regarded as barely being female (cruel, but then teenagers are always cruel), so it was little wonder that popular, well thought of Tom would have wanted to avoid that for as long as possible. That I was his current distraction against what could potentially be the rest of his life: Teana Mathews, one of the nicest girls I'd ever met, who'd cut all her hair off and sold it to charity and whose parents were so strict that she wasn't allowed to so much as think of searching before she was a legal adult. Tom was certainly rebelling against their expectations, if she was the right Teana.

"Oh," I said, freezing and shrinking away from him, eyes widened in a perfected expression of shock, "Teana?"

"Corin," Tom muttered, jerking back, hitting his hand on the gearstick in a rush to retrieve his wrist guard from the floor and cover it up again, "look, I can explain." People felt naked without them. Uncomfortable. Unnatural. Pretty amusing, really (as long as my wrist guard remained firmly in place).

"How?" I demanded, voice twisting into the hysterical as I hurried to unlock the car and push the door open. "What, you just... you had a name transplant yesterday and forgot to mention it?"

"Corin!" Tom said, grabbing my arm and trying to stop me from exiting the car. "Corin, you can't go - you're miles away from home, you just... look, let's talk about this."

"There's nothing to talk about!" I said, voice still hysterical. The perfect balance of upset and angry.

"I didn't mean... I didn't meant to make you assume -"

"Yes, Tom, you did."

"Just get in the damn car."

"I'll get the train," I said, letting myself start to cry (God, if acting was still a viable career choice rather than a monument of history, I should have been paid billions), "I don't... I can't look at you right now. How could you? After my sister...?"

The mention of Jacinta had exactly the desired effect: Tom blanched and suddenly looked disgusted at himself, uncomfortable, guilty and upset all at once. It was funny, the way my sister could affect my boyfriend's emotional wellbeing far more than I was capable of doing so.

"I can't let you get the train. Those things... they're empty. Corin, come on. I can't do that to you."

"You were going to do much worse." I said, shoving my hands in my pockets and storming away from the car towards the train station. Tom called something after me (might have been ‘I love you' and if it was, he was either a bigger tosser than previously realised or a poor old sod), but I ignored it and took the steps down to the beach.

At least there was air down there and I liked the feeling of the wind whipping my fringe away from my face, even though I felt more vulnerable that way. There was no one watching (except perhaps Tom, if he'd climbed out of his car and was thinking of following; but I doubted he would) so it hardly mattered if I looked more like a kid teenage girl than usual.

I liked the sea, but after my father died Mum hadn't wanted to be constantly reminded of him every time she took a breath of air. She'd moved to the coast with him, being a landlocked sort of child herself never dreaming that the Walden she was searching for went surfing for fun and spent his childhood eating fish and chips out of crisps sheets of recycled paper. She said that she'd never liked salt on her food, liked it less in the air that she breathed and that she couldn't have possibly stayed at the seaside. Back then, we weren't going to argue with our Mother's strange state of non-grief. We just accepted it, allowed her to uproot us and added the beach onto the list of things to mourn. 

We only moved twenty minutes away, it was true, but that was enough to ensure that she never ended up back here again: as soon as people have finished searching, they live small lives with few people in them. The world is only big when you're searching, when you've been found you can lose yourself within the fact that you belong with someone. You're not supposed to need anyone else.

I took in one last indulgent breath of air before I snapped myself out of it, internally savouring the feel of the sand under my shoes as I began the walk along the beach and towards the train station. There was a road that led in the same direction, and I'd probably get there quicker, but these days they only ran the trains when there were enough people that wanted a ride anyway so I doubted it would make much difference. If I missed one, all it would take was a sob story and a bit of mild flirting with the train driver before he commissioned another - simple.

This wasn't exactly my first late night train ride back home. The crude, large, metal machines had a certain charm in their ugliness and whilst everything new seemed to be make of precisely balanced sheets of metal, the trains were solid and raw. A bit ridiculous, really. A hyperbolic machine of over proportion and excess.

Everything had gone exactly the way I had planned it. Admittedly, Mum would no doubt be angry for a little while before I explained the situation with Tom (more tears might be required for that) and Jacinta would goad me for hours, just because I'd given her ample reason to, but otherwise everything had worked out perfectly. I might skip school tomorrow in the name of heartbreak as I expected the Corin people saw outwardly would be quite devastated by the fact that she'd fallen for another rogue Thomas.

My thoughts jarred for a second and I paused on the steps back up to street level, just across the road from the train station. My breath caught in my throat as I stared, everything feeling rawer and more real than it had in weeks. After a few long seconds I managed to catch hold of myself, melting back into my previous, saner state before bursting back into motion.

Just a moment of weakness. A temporary state of insanity thanks to staying up to late planning how to undo my ties to Tom number three. But, still, there it was; for a split second I thought I'd seen my ten years dead father.

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